A 16-year-old runner participating in an Anchorage, Alaska trail race died Sunday during the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb at Bird Ridge. A black bear attacked the unidentified teen who got lost in the trails after veering off-course, according to Park Ranger Tom Crockett.

Crocket told KTVA Alaska that the 16-year-old texted his brother, who was also racing and near the finish line to alert officials, at 12:37 p.m local time that he was “being attacked by a bear.” Race officials were able to track down the lost runner via the cell phone signal, according to the report.

Location of Bird Ridge

The runner was competing in the junior division of the race. Alaska Dispatch News reports that park rangers shot the bear in the face but the animal ran away and rangers, with the help of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, were continuing the search as of Sunday night. The open race is an all-uphill 5K up Bird Ridge with 1,035m of vertical climb. For juniors, the race reaches the halfway point before competitors make their way back down the mountain “at their leisure,” as ADN describes.

Alaska Dispatch News reports that the teen was pronounced dead on the scene, approximately 450m from the main trail used for the race in a heavily-wooded area. The body was airlifted away because of the rugged terrain. The bear was still in the area when the body was found, per KTVA Alaska. According to the North American Bear Centre, “most attacks by black bears attacks are defensive reactions to a person who is very close.” (Read more from the North American Bear Centre.)

A number of the runners, who had finished the race once hearing the news, helped carry medical equipment onto the mountain for medical personnel. The area remains closed off, according to KTUU Channel 2 News.


1 Comment

  • Taylor Scarr says:

    Your article was informative until the third last sentence. The statement attributed to the North American Bear Center may be accurate but it is entirely and dangerously misleading. Yes, most attacks by black bears are defensive. But fatal attacks by black bears are different. They are typically made by young, healthy male bears that perceive humans as food and attack with the intent to eat the person. In other words, they view humans as food. And a runner looks even more like prey and is more likely to trigger a predatory response because the black bear pursues the runner to be fleeing rather than standing its ground. The North American Bear Center supports this biology, “Offensive attacks are very rare and include all of the killings by black bears. These are generally unprovoked predatory attacks in remote areas where bears have the least contact with people.”

    And the advice as to what to do when attacked in such as a way is much different from what to do when attacked by a surprised black bear or a grizzly. If it’s a predatory black bear attack, you should stand your ground, appear large, yell and shout, and back away while facing the bear. If the bear does attack, you fight back as hard as you can with whatever you can, because you are fighting for your life. The black bear intends to eat you, so playing dead as you might with a grizzly sow protecting its cubs won’t work with a predatory black bear. Yes, such attack are rare, but they do occur.

    You owe it to your readers to set the record straight, and correct your poorly researched statement. As originally written, it leaves the impression that this was somehow the runner’s fault for getting too close. That was not the case – indeed, the fact the runner sent a text sayingthat he was being attacked means he did not surprise the bear or suddenly come across it. It was coming for him.

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